The White House on Monday said it would release a list of 10 judges President Donald Trump would like to appoint to the federal courts, marking his administration’s beginning moves to promote conservatives within the legal system.
The administration is working to pull the courts further to the right after eight years of President Obama pulling them left, said Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America.
“When Senate Democrats obliterated the filibuster for federal judges in 2013, Obama was able to pack the courts with scores of liberal, anti-gun judges,” Pratt told Guns.com in an email Monday. “So the question of who would pick judges to both the Supreme Court and the lower courts was the most important issue for many Americans last November.”
Two of the picks — Justice Joan L. Larsen, who clerked for Second Amendment champion Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and Justice David R. Stras, former law clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas — came out of the presidential campaign. Larsen will be nominated to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati and Stras to the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis.
The administration’s list was developed with heavy input from conservative think tanks the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, who also helped the president put together his list of 21 potential Supreme Court picks to fill the void left by the death of Scalia last year. Trump’s appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was on that list.
With 120 such openings in the lower federal courts, critics say the Trump administration is behind in filling them.
During a press briefing Monday, the White House said it had a “very robust schedule” of releasing names of nominees and that the process is different because the names are going through the Office of Government Ethics and the FBI.
Part of the role of government is looking at these positions and making sure the tax payer is getting a better “bang for their buck,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
The White House plans on releasing more names in the coming months.
There’s no doubt a bench filled with Republican-backed judges will have a positive impact on the gun rights side of that debate.
“Gun owners certainly welcome the courts becoming more ‘gun friendly’ under a Trump presidency,” Pratt said. “Gun Owners of America has been involved in several gun cases, including the recent Peruta case — now up for consideration by the Supreme Court — which challenges state laws that effectively prohibit concealed carry.”
In general, some liberals fear what a conservative bench would look like for many of the big ticket political issues.
“The Trump administration has made clear its intention to benefit from Republican obstructionism and to pack the federal courts with ultraconservatives given a stamp of approval by the Federalist Society,” Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, told the New York Times. “We’ll be scrutinizing the records of these nominees very carefully.”
The group urged caution at the prospect of one of those potential appointments, Judge Amul R. Thapar, on the list of 21 and currently awaiting a vote on his appointment to the Sixth Circuit. Thapar is the only pending official nominee to a lower federal court until the Trump administration releases the new list of 10 Monday.
“Alliance for Justice has serious concerns about Judge Thapar’s fitness for elevation to a higher court, and urges senators and the public to closely scrutinize his record,” the group said.
For gun rights groups, the nominations can’t come sooner. The Second Amendment Foundation has vowed to vet each nominee in a project it launched called the Judicial Accountability Project.
“Donald Trump is honoring his commitment to gun owners that he will appoint judges that will protect Second Amendment constitutional rights,” said Alan Gottlieb, SAF founder and vice president, in an email to Guns.com on Monday. “The impact will be very positive for years to come.”